Creed stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, an up-and-coming fighter (and the son of Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed) who enlists no less than Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to help him train to become a legitimate boxer. Though it suffers from an overlong running time and repetitive narrative, Creed generally comes off as a stirring effort that benefits greatly from Jordan’s consistently enthralling turn as the title character – with the actor more than holding his own opposite Stallone and ultimately transforming Adonis into a sympathetic, Rocky-esque underdog. The film’s thoroughly engrossing opening stretch gives way to a flabby and disappointingly half-baked midsection, however, as scripters Coogler and Aaron Covington offer up a second act that adheres much, much too closely to the formula established by the Rocky series (ie there are just so many training sequences) – which wouldn’t necessarily be quite so problematic had Coogler employed a brisker pace and shorter runtime. There is, having said that, no denying the effectiveness of certain sequences peppered throughout, with the highlight coming in the form of an enthralling mid-movie fight that unfolds in one long, unbroken take. Jordan’s seriously impressive performance is matched by Stallone’s unexpectedly riveting work as his most famous character, while Tessa Thompson does a nice job of transforming her love-interest figure into more than just a supporting girlfriend (although the decision to place her character in hearing aids feels completely arbitrary). By the time the effective (and affecting) final fight rolls around, Creed has established itself as a decent Rocky followup that could (and should) have been so much better (ie the movie is longer than any of the six preceding installments).
**1/2 out of ****